Black Friday, the traditional start of holiday shopping experienced a new hit in 2023. The usual frenzy and crowded stores were notably absent and stores were empty across the globe.
Black Friday falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving each year. In the early 1960s, police officers in Philadelphia started using the term ‘Black Friday’.
They used it to describe the chaos caused by many suburban tourists coming to the city for holiday shopping and the annual Army-Navy football game on Saturday. This led to big crowds, causing challenges for the police. They had to work longer hours dealing with issues like traffic jams, accidents, and shoplifting.
In recent years, the term has been used to refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving in November when stores give huge discounts and slash prices for goods.
Black Friday 2023 wasn’t quite what we expected. Sure, online sales boomed like a rocket, but physical stores? Empty. In a shocking turn of events, stores across the country were left quiet. There was a significant decline in foot traffic.
So, what happened? Did everyone suddenly become minimalists?
Let’s face it, Black Friday isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Waking up early to get the best deals, fighting over special offers, questionable hygiene of fellow shoppers, the list goes on and on. This was enough to make shoppers lose their cool. So, retailers got smart. They started offering deals well before Black Friday, stretching the ‘frenzy’ into weeks.
This resulted in shoppers who hate crowds buying at leisure, avoiding the Black Friday rush. By the time the main event rolled around, people were already dealt out. They had either bought what they needed or grown immune to the ‘sale’ siren song.
A Black Friday sales analysis by Mastercard in 2023 found that in-store sales grew by just 1% as opposed to online sales that grew by 8% compared to last year. Retailers have been pouring money into online stores for years and Black Friday 2023 proved its worth. Online sales hit record highs.
For over half a century, Black Friday has painted a picture of pandemonium, but in 2023, the early bird bargain hunter had migrated online. Pre-Black Friday deals, coupled with the ease of shopping from the comfort of your home, meant physical stores became an afterthought.
Factors that Influenced Black Friday Sales
Adobe Analytics reports that online Black Friday sales in 2023 hit a staggering $9.8 billion, a 7.5% increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, Sensor Mastic Solutions, a retail traffic tracker, recorded a 28% drop in foot traffic compared to 2022. The factors that influenced this increase include:
There are several reasons why convenience shopping is on the rise. First, people are busier than ever. People are working longer hours, commuting longer distances, and have less time for traditional shopping trips.
Secondly, technology has made it very easy to shop from the comfort of one’s own home. Online stores are open 24/7 and offer a wider selection of products.
Lastly, people are increasingly willing to pay a premium for convenience services like deliveries especially when it is receivable from the comfort of their homes.
The rise of convenience shopping over the years has had a major impact on Black Friday. In the past, Black Friday was a day when people would get up early to get the best deals. However, people now are more likely to shop online or wait for deals to be offered later in the season. This convenience is simply unmatched by the traditional Black Friday experience, which often involves long lines, early mornings, and limited selection.
In addition to convenience, online shopping also offers a wider selection of products and prices. Consumers can easily compare prices from different retailers and find the best deals, without having to drive from store to store.
With prices skyrocketing, many families simply could not afford to splurge on non-essentials, even at discounted rates. This meant they had to skip black Friday and focus on putting food on the table. For consumers, inflation was a double-edged sword.
While eager to catch deals on holiday gifts, rising prices meant tighter budgets and scrutinising every purchase. Surveys revealed a shift towards price-consciousness, with shoppers prioritising essentials, and seeking more discounts.
Retailers faced a delicate dance. Eager to capitalise on the holiday rush, they had to contend with rising inventory costs and shrinking profit margins. The solution? Strategic discounting.
We saw a rise in targeted promotions, focusing on specific categories or high-demand items. Early deals became a trend, luring in shoppers before the Black Friday frenzy. Additionally, value-driven offers like bundled deals and cashback rewards emerged to entice budget-conscious consumers. Early shopping also became more prevalent, as consumers feared missing out on deals or facing stock shortages later.
3. Black Friday Fatigue
Black Friday is a huge deal with lots of sales, but a lot of people are getting tired of it. We call this ‘Black Friday Fatigue’. It happens because there are so many ads and deals that it can be too much for shoppers.
In the past, Black Friday was just one day, but retailers eager to catch every penny currently stretch it to every Friday in November, every day in November, and some, even a month after.
Black Friday is not the sole ‘big day’ anymore. It has slowly become a ‘Black November’. By the time the official day arrives, shoppers have already seen (and often bought) the best discounts. This longer time might seem good for getting more deals, but it makes people feel tired and all the fun in shopping is lost.
People used to go to stores, stand in long lines, and rush for limited deals. Now, many prefer to shop online from home to avoid the chaos. While this is convenient, it also makes Black Friday less exciting.
4. Value or Volume
In 2023, consumers are increasingly conscious of their spending habits. The ‘buy, buy, buy’ mentality has given way to a more considerate approach with a focus on value over material possessions.
A recent survey by Deloitte revealed that 42% of millennials spent less on holiday shopping this year, opting instead for travel, dining, or self-care experiences. This shift in priorities is reflected in the Black Friday trends. While electronics and appliances still saw decent sales, categories like home improvement, sporting goods, and outdoor gear witnessed significant sales.
Time will tell what the future holds for Black Friday. But one thing is for sure: convenience shopping is here to stay and it is having a major impact on the way we shop.